The CEO of TouchBistro Shares His Number One Tip for Restaurant Success in the Digital World
Business Solutions Alex Barrotti, the founder and CEO of TouchBistro, offers tips for restaurateurs and stresses the importance of a high-tech point of sale for restaurant success.
What attracted you to the restaurant industry?
I had the desire to help a very good friend of mine in the Caribbean who had a problem running his sushi restaurant. The restaurant seated diners inside and on the patio. Waiters had to constantly run indoors and outdoors to take orders, deliver food and drinks, and take payments. The inefficiency was slowing service and reducing table turns. I knew mobile technology could help resolve the inefficiencies.
It was 2010 and the iPad had just been released, the perfect form factor for a waiter to bring to a table, just like an order pad. However, there were no restaurant point of sale (POS) apps for the device, and there were no drivers for equipment used by restaurants, like printers. This was the kind of technology challenge I loved, so I pulled together a team and developed the TouchBistro iPad POS specifically to help restaurateurs, like my friend, streamline and simplify their business operations so they can focus on their passion — the reason they opened their restaurant in the first place.
What has been the most exciting part of running a business that is at the intersection of technology and hospitality?
What excites me the most is the creative process of designing software that captures what restaurateurs, waiters, chefs and managers tell me they need to help them run a more successful business and provide a better customer experience. I love the challenge of translating their needs into software that is intuitive, visually appealing and makes things so much easier for them. This excites me in a similar way to how a chef gets excited about preparing an exceptional culinary experience. The design process is exciting, and seeing the success achieved with the product is tremendously rewarding.
Last year was tough. Traffic and sales were troubling. Should restaurants be optimistic in 2018?
The Restaurant Performance Index, published by the National Restaurant Association in February, “signals a healthy level of optimism for [restaurant] business conditions in the coming months.” Total eating and drinking sales and employment showed nice uptrends as of October, as well.
We are seeing more restaurants open than ever before, and establishments with great food are routinely packed. We definitely think restaurants should be optimistic in 2018.
Where should restaurants focus their energy and investment dollars?
Restaurants should first focus the bulk of their energy and investment dollars on the food — the customer doesn’t go back to a place that has terrible food. I’ve been to restaurants where the ambiance and decor are great, but the food is terrible, and I won’t go back. I’ve gone to holes-in-the-wall where the decor was awful, but the food was great, and I will definitely go back. The next priority is to focus on efficiency of service and a great customer experience. Implementing the right technology is essential to making this happen.
What would you say is the biggest benefit of a tablet-based POS for a restaurant owner/manager? What about for an employee?
With a tablet-based POS — especially one designed specifically for the restaurant industry — restaurateurs have more flexibility in the way they run their operations and service customers. Some restaurants, like quick service restaurants, may work most efficiently by entering orders and payments from customers in line into a tablet fixed at the counter. At full service restaurants, waiters can take the tablet right to the tableside to enter orders faster, upsell specials of the day and streamline payment processing. Waiters have been happy to report an increase in their tips because they were able to deliver faster and smoother service when they took the tablet to the table.
Today’s wait staff are generally quite familiar with the iPad or the iPhone. So it is a very short learning curve to train them on an iPad-based POS. As a result, implementation is considerably quicker than with more complex and traditional POS systems. The restaurant owner can also manage operations on the go from any location with a full-function, tablet-based POS that has a cloud connection.
Tablets can be purchased off the shelf, at virtually any technology retailer, at a much lower cost than the proprietary hardware that is required to run a system based on older technology. A restaurateur can purchase a new tablet-based system, or upgrade from an old system, at a much lower initial investment than was possible previously.